Sunday Silence won the Preakness in a spine-tingling stretch duel with Easy Goer Saturday to move to the threshold of the first Triple Crown sweep since 1978.
The photo-finish victory for the Kentucky Derby winner became official after the stewards disallowed a foul claim by Easy Goer's jockey, Pat Day, against Sunday Silence and jockey Pat Valenzuela.If Sunday Silence wins the Belmont Stakes on June 10, he will become the first Triple Crown winner since Affirmed edged Alydar, Easy Goer's sire, in all three races in 1978.
Sunday Silence and Easy Goer, the beaten favorite in the Kentucky Derby and the favorite again in Saturday's $674,200 Preakness, ran eyeball-to-eyeball in the stretch as the crowd screamed itself hoarse. Just as they reached the wire, Sunday Silence stuck his nose in front.
Easy Goer finished five lengths in front of Rock Point, who was two lengths ahead of Dansil. Completing the order of finish were Hawkster, Houston, Pulverizing and Northern Wolf.
A foul claim also was filed against Rock Point and his jockey Chris Antley by Larry Snyder, who rode Dansil.
Awe Inspiring, the stablemate of Easy Goer, was scratched.
Sunday Silence carried scale weight of 126 pounds over the 1 3-16 miles in 1:53 4-5, the third fastest time of the 114 Preaknesses. The winner paid $6.20, $3 and $3.20 in remaining unbeaten in four starts as a 3-year-old. Easy Goer paid $2.40 and $2.40 while Rock Point was $3.60 to show.
It was a sensational race.
Day moved Easy Goer past Houston early in the final turn. However, Valenzuela sent Sunday Silence past Easy Goer with little more than a quarter-mile remaining.
Then down the stretch they came and no one could guess the winner until Sunday Silence decided it in the final strides.
"Off the turn Pat (Valenzuela) rode hard to get alongside," Day said. "It was a good ride on his part. We made some contact but obviously the stewards didn't think it affected the outcome."
"Looking head on at the wire I knew we got beat," said Shug McGaughey, trainer of Easy Goer. "Both horses ran a great race to be where they were."
After the Derby, Charlie Whittingham, Sunday Silence's 76-year old trainer, predicted his colt would win the Triple Crown. That prediction is a mile-and-a-half away from becoming fact. Only 11 3-year-olds have ever won the three races.
Sunday Silence became the 25th winner of the Derby and Preakness. The other three since Affirmed won the Triple Crown were Spectacular Bid in 1979, Pleasant Colony in 1981 and Alysheba in 1987.
For a time early in the week it look like Sunday Silence might not get to the post. It was discovered May 13 that he had a bruised right front foot. He missed two days of training.
There certainly were no effects evident Saturday.
Then, after Sunday Silence crossed the finish line came the agonizing 7-minute delay as the stewards decided whether they should make the first disqualification of an apparent winner in Triple Crown history.